University of Cincinnati McMicken College of Arts and Sciences. I spent a lot of time in this building.

 

University of Cincinnati Van Wormer Hall has had a green top added since I was there.

 

It’s been very change-of-seasony here in Stockholm over the last week or so, with sun turning to rain rather quickly. Today has been one of those chilly all day rain days and summer feels way too far away. So what better thing to do on a cool evening than to get nostalgic about summer?

While I was in Cincinnati, I met up with my friend Elissa from college and we drove around the University of Cincinnati and Clifton, the neighborhood that surrounds it. I used to live in this area, but have not been there in many years. As Elissa is a professor at the University of Cincinnati, she was up on all the changes and was happy to show me around. It was a hot summer night and storm clouds lingered in the sky.

Just looking at the photos, I can feel the summer heat. Almost.

 

Cincinnati The Esquire theater. I saw a lot of art-house movies there.

 

Cincinnati The Clifton and Ludlow Skyline Chili, a favorite late-night restaurant.

 

Cincinnati The Clifton fire station.

 

Cincinnati Clifton & Ludlow.

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Stockholm The bow of the boat was a perfect spot for relaxing in the sunshine.

 

Stockholm And also watching the clouds at sunset.

 

Stockholm Or even the storm clouds.

 

Stockholm Calm waters after the storm.

 

I’ve always thought I would like to live on the water. So when Robert surprised me last weekend with a stay on a boat, I was pretty happy. Actually what I said to the owners as they gave us the keys was: “The only problem for you is that I am not going to give you these back.”

And you know what? It was hard to give them back. I loved being directly on the water and seeing sail, motor and tourist boats, as well as kayaks, jet skis and fishermen go by. When a thunderstorm came up on Friday night, it was fantastic to watch it from just under the roof on the bow of the boat, seeing the water get choppy and the sky change colors. And it was relaxing to be gently rocked to sleep at night and to wake up to the sound of the sea gulls.

 

Stockholm Nici and Roger joined us for a BBQ with a view

 

Stockholm Nici and Robert, busy in the kitchen.

 

Stockholm The living room.

 

It was also nice to share the boat with friends and we had a small BBQ on Friday evening. And then on Saturday night, Robert hosted a birthday dinner for me. None of our friends wanted to leave either. (You can see a a few more photos of the boat here.)

I could imagine myself living and writing on a boat and just being creative in general. It was inspiring to be so close to water. And since we were in a harbor that was right next to all sorts of restaurants and stores, we also had everything we needed within a short walk. It was perfect.

While we only stayed on board for three nights, it was good. Really, really good, actually. Because the boat was a home with a big kitchen, bathroom with tub and living area on the top floor, it was comfortable. And then below, there were three bedrooms and another couch/living room area.

I could get used to that life. Anyone know of a houseboat for sale?

 

Stockholm Of course, life on board is pretty tough, as Aron and Tone demonstrate.

 

Stockholm And Roger had a tough time with the conditions, too. Stockholm “My captain” Robert gives the welcome aboard.

 

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Stockholm Celebrating my birthday on a boat in Stockholm.

 

Stockholm On deck: A champagne toast.

 

Stockholm More houseboat posing.

 

The thing with living in one country, being from another and having a husband from yet another one is that I always feel a bit divided. When I was in the US this summer, I was missing the long days of Swedish summer. When I am in Sweden in the winter, I absolutely crave time in Australia. Of course I always miss the family and friends who are not where I am. And so it goes.

All that said, I also feel extremely lucky to have three countries in the world where I feel at home. So while I was not able to have one big birthday party with family and friends all in one place, I did get to have a fantastic Mexican buffet dinner party in my parent’s backyard in Cincinnati with some of my family and friends. And Robert hosted an Italian dinner party for me on a houseboat in Stockholm. And having those two events feels pretty special.

In fact, I feel blessed beyond measure.

Cincinnati And here is a big group shot from the Cincinnati party.

 

Cincinnati My niece demonstrates a jump for joy.

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Ohio River The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge as seen from Cincinnati.

 

Cincinnati The Purple People Bridge as seen from Kentucky.

 

As long as I lived in Cincinnati, I never walked across one of the Ohio River bridges. Until now. With my nieces and nephews on a fun day to the Newport Aquarium recently, we decided we would take a bridge walk. From the aquarium, we walked across the Purple People Bridge back to Cincinnati.

After a stop to run through the fountains at Yeatman’s Cove and the Serpentine Wall, we then walked across the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge.  This bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was completed in 1866 and later served as a blueprint for the Brooklyn Bridge. To get back to the car, we took the trolley back to Cincinnati and then to Newport again. Then I drove us all home again across yet another bridge. It was a very “bridgey” day.

Ohio River My nieces and nephews strike a pose on the Purple People Bridge.

 

Ohio River John Roebling designed this bridge and then later created the even longer Brooklyn Bridge.

 

Ohio River The Cincinnati skyline.

 

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Lake Erie summer The view from the hammock.

 

Lake Erie summer My “office” view from the deck.

 

Over the last month, I’ve been spending a lot of time getting caught up with family and friends in Ohio. It’s been fun, but I realized I had been doing quite a bit of running around while also trying to sandwich in as much work as possible. I was getting tired.

So earlier in  the week, we slowed down and went to visit my aunt and uncle at their house on Lake Erie. Their home and boat are made for relaxing. Perch fishing, watching the sunset and spending time in the hammock were just what I needed. I even managed to squeeze in some work. As I did it from the deck with a water view, it was not a bad deal at all.

 

Lake Erie Robert and one of the over 150 perch we caught and later ate.

 

Lake Erie Uncle Doug shows off his sunset fishing skills.

 

summer Lake Erie sunset.

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Cincinnati Reds The Great American Ball Park with the Ohio River in the background.

 

Cincinnati Reds Selling cotton candy.

 

Now it feels like summer. I went to a baseball game. Specifically, I saw the Cincinnati Reds play the Washington Nationals. My team lost.

But really, that’s not what it was all about anyway. It was also about the traditions. Doing the wave and the 7th inning stretch while singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Plus, it was a beautiful summer night. I was with a friend that I’ve known since I was 4.5 years old. We ate all sorts of ballpark food: pizza, nachos, a soft pretzel. And we jazzed it up with some frozen margaritas. Yum. After the game, the Cincinnati Pops played a mini concert and there were fireworks. Good stuff.

 

Cincinnati Reds The score board.

 

Cincinnati Reds John Morris Russell conducted the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra after the game.

 

Cincinnati Reds And for the finale of the evening: fireworks.

 

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southern cooking Fried green tomatoes.

 

Kentucky The Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg. I remember coming here when I was about 10.

 

Growing up as the daughter and granddaughter of southerners, I was served a lot of
country cooking: cornbread, fruit pies and biscuits, green beans with ham, fried chicken, homemade bread and butter pickles and jams. These things I could tolerate. But fried green tomatoes, country ham, gravy and grits did not make the cut for this “northerner” and I spent a lot of time wishing that my family would eat more “normal” food like tacos, pizza and pasta.

These days, I can appreciate my southern heritage a lot more and while fried green tomatoes, for instance, are not in my own cooking repertoire, I am happy to have them when I visit my parents. While in Kentucky last week, I had to sample some of the local fare. And to that end, that meant I was compelled to have fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, okra, cornbread, biscuits. I even sampled  my Dad’s country ham and grits (still not a fan, though). It felt like I had stepped back into some of the food of my childhood.

 

Liberty, Kentucky The barn that my Grandfather helped to build in the 1930s.

 

Liberty, Kentucky Liberty is the town where my Mother was born.

 

Then taking the journey back in time one step further, we stopped at a soda fountain in Harrodsburg. The Kentucky Fudge Company is an old-fashioned soda shop that dates back to 1865 in what used to be Dedman’s Drug Store. We sat at the counter and while my Dad had an ice cream sundae, Mom and I each had an ice cream soda. This quaint old store still had many of the old cabinets that were used in the pharmacy and it was fun to look around and see what was there.

And of course, it was good to reminisce. I remember being about 5 years-old and going to the Center Drug Store soda shop that my grandmother used to work at in Cincinnati. (What’s a soda fountain, you ask? It was a small ice cream shop/eating place that was often in a pharmacy). I would sit at the counter on one of the stools that I “had” to spin around on while having an ice cream soda.

Living so far from my “roots,” it felt good to reconnect, to see so many places from my childhood, including the barn that my grandfather helped to build in the 1930s and the small town where my mother was born. It was a good couple of days.

On an extra note, here’s my Mom’s basic fried green tomato recipe, in her words: “Slice the tomato. Beat an egg in a bowl, then add milk or water.  Dredge the tomatoes in flour, dip them in the egg mixture and then in cornmeal (or panko). Fry the tomatoes in either canola or olive oil until golden brown. If the tomatoes are hard, I put a lid on the pan to soften them as they cook. Sometimes I will serve them with a remoulade sauce, but more often just on their own.”

 

soda fountain An ice cream sundae at the Kentucky Fudge Company in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

 

soda fountain At the soda counter.

 

Harrodsburg Pharmacy antiques.

 

Harrodsburg In front of the Kentucky Fudge Company.

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Kentucky bourbon trail Heaven Hill distillery barrel.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail Barrels of bourbon aging in the rickhouse.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail Bourbon ready for the tasting.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail Our tour guide Billy Joe explains the finer points of tasting bourbon.

 

In the midst of the rolling fields, horse farms and limestone of Lexington, Kentucky, lies the Bourbon Trail. While I grew up taking trips to this part of the US,  it’s been a long time since I’ve been there. I wanted to go and reconnect with my “roots” as my mother is from just south of there and also to see the landscape and sample the local food and drink.

While some of the distilleries have been around for a long time, the concept of a “bourbon trail” is a more recent phenomenon and there are many new additions.  So I was curious to check out that Kentucky product too. (As a kid, I was more interested in the horses and the legend of Daniel Boone than the bourbon.)

With my parents, I went to the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown where Evan Williams, Elijah Craig and Larceny bourbon are produced. According to our tour guide Billy Joe, this area has all the ingredients necessary for making bourbon: corn, pure limestone springs, white oak for the barrels and a combination of hot summers and cool winters to age the sour mash.

I did not know much about making bourbon beyond the fact that it was made with corn, so I felt like I learned a lot from the tour. We got to see a working rickhouse where we were surrounded by 20,000 barrels of aging bourbon. In an open rick warehouse, the windows open and close to help age the bourbon. And the best  bourbon is above the fifth floor as it gets hotter and thus apparently ages better there.

At the end of the tour, we got to sample three of the bourbons. As Billy Joe said:  ”Now you can taste a bit of heaven.”  Spending time in “heaven” was not at all a bad way to spend an afternoon.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail Elijah Craig bourbon.

 

bourbon trail And two more Kentucky bourbons from Heaven Hill.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail No bull, just bourbon.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail The rickhouses used to age the barrels of bourbon.

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Cincinnati market Buckets of zinnias.

 

Cincinnati market Bushel basket of corn.

 

Cincinnati Black seedless watermelon.

 

“I just picked these two hours ago,” said the woman at the produce stand about the bushel baskets of corn in front of her. As I could see the cornfield just behind her, I believed her. And then later that evening when I had an ear for dinner, I knew she was telling the truth–that corn was amazingly fresh and good.

The roadside stands are everywhere right now with signs advertising corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and peppers. And there are also watermelons, peaches, cantaloupe, blackberries and plums. I am so happy to be back in the Midwest to have all this freshly picked summer perfection.

 

farmer's market Pickles and peppers.

 

farmer's market Black and blue berries.

 

farmer's market The tomato table.

 

farmer's market Local green beans.

 

farmer's market Jalapenos.

 

farmer's market Eggplant basket.

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stockholm The Djurgården ferry.

 

Stockholm Summer cruising.

 

Stockholm Stromma steam ship and Grona Lund.

 

Boats,  summer light, the Baltic Sea. What’s not to love? The evening and late-night light of Stockholm fascinates me this time of year.  Maybe it’s just the contrast between the long light now and the lack of light in the winter, but I don’t think it’s just that. It’s also the golden glow of the light.

And as much as I love being back in the US and seeing family and friends, I do have to say that I miss those long hours of Stockholm summer light.

That said, I have been having lots of fun with family and friends. And it FEELS like summer here. Which is not something that could be said about Swedish summer for the most part this year!

 

stockholm The view from Nici and Roger’s new jetty.

 

stockholm Old town sunset.

 

stockholm archipelago The light at 3 am in the archipelago.

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